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Students Learn About Cyber Security Studies, Careers

Faculty-Student Research, Experts Highlight College's "Security Day" Event

Nov. 20, 2013

Mikhail Gofman, assistant professor of computer science, presented his research during the recent "Security Day" event. Gofman's research interests include web security, virtualization security and biometrics.

Computer science graduate student Chad Wyszynski knows the importance of research to protect the confidentiality of personal information in cyberspace.

For his master's thesis, Wyszynski is working with faculty mentor Mikhail Gofman, assistant professor of computer science, on research that strives to improve security of virtualized environments by excluding user's confidential information from virtual machine checkpoints, Gofman explained.

"Any time data is shared or transferred on the Internet, there is a threat to your confidential information," said Wyszynski, who presented his project during the College of Engineering and Computer Science's first-ever "Security Day."

The Nov. 15 event, attended by computer science and engineering majors, gave students insight and information about areas of study and careers in computer security. Both Wyszynski and Gofman, whose research interests include system security, were among student and faculty presenters.

Wyszynski, who plans to complete his studies this fall and graduate in January, noted that in today's cyber world, it's commonplace to provide passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information to Internet servers at places like Google and Amazon.

"These servers run on virtual machines, which frequently save snapshots of what they're currently doing— even if they're processing your confidential information. Chances are, there's a snapshot on an Amazon server with a credit card number sitting around, waiting for someone to read it with Notepad. And, yes, it's that easy to read," said Wyszynski.

Through their research efforts, he and Gofman are developing a solution that prevents such confidential information from being saved in that snapshot to reduce, even eliminate, intentional breaches.

Industry and government security experts also provided their perspectives on the growing danger of cyber threats and attacks. Michael Skroch, strategic capabilities deputy at Sandia National Laboratories, and Ron Williamson, senior engineering fellow at Raytheon Network Centric Systems, were guest speakers.

This fall, computer security scholar Yun Tian joined the college as an assistant professor of computer science. Tian also gave a presentation on her research efforts, which include storage security, cloud security, high-performance computing and computer science education.

To meet the growing need for more security professionals and research, Gofman also discussed the college's proposal for a center with a cross-disciplinary approach that would focus on computer security issues and research. Plans also call for developing security courses and establishing a degree program in cyber security.

"At this time, the college and Department of Computer Science are in the planning stages. We want to generate interest and awareness of the issues, need and relevance of cyber security," said Dean Raman M. Unnikrishnan.

Wyszynski added that his study to improve cyber resilience is a valuable skill for his career as a software engineer: "Computer security is a continual stream of ah-ha moments. I learn a new concept and then discover a dozen different ways to look at it. Computer security is a cool combination of puzzle solving, general knowledge and clever thinking; it's a ubiquitous need — and a hot and lucrative field. More importantly though, it's intellectually compelling work."

Tags:  Academics & Research